As if Sage Hill School, coming off a winless season, can afford to lose anything more.
The football team loses a day in preparation for its season opener on Thursday. The early game against Calvary Chapel at Jim Scott Stadium comes five days after Sage Hill’s road scrimmage on Saturday.
“That’s tough on us,” said Sage Hill Coach J.R. Tolver, whose team usually game plans on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and conducts a walk-through practice on Thursday. “We technically only have two days to prepare for [Calvary Chapel].
“First day of school is on Monday, so we have that distraction.”
Time will tell how Sage Hill’s short week will affect its kickoff to the season.
The Lighting took part in a three-way scrimmage with Redlands Arrowhead Christian and Riverside Notre Dame on Saturday. Sage Hill needs all the work it can get after it went 0-10, 0-3 in the Academy League last season, losing by an average of 31.6 points per game.
The season turned out to be the worst in Sage Hill’s history and its third winless season in league play.
The players that look to lead the program to its first winning season and first CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoff appearance in three years are below:
Quarterback: CJ McCord is back and healthy for his junior season.
Tolver said McCord broke his left non-throwing arm in the second game of last season and missed four weeks. The injury affected the team’s offense, which only averaged 9.6 points per game.
McCord will run a pro offense, no longer the Wildcat scheme the Lightning used the past three seasons. The personnel to run the Wildcat are not there, Tolver said.
Robbie Rosoff, a left-handed sophomore, is the backup.
Running backs: Beau Roth, a junior, is making the move to tailback after playing wide receiver last year.
“Beau is maybe the best athlete on our team, definitely the most experienced football player on our team,” Tolver said, adding that Roth played running back before he entered high school. “He understands that in order for us to win games, we’re going to have to give him the ball.”
Roth takes over for Joe Melita, a first-team all-league performer last year as a senior.
Alfonso Corona, a sophomore, will back up Roth, and junior Kieran Mital will play fullback.
Receivers: Sam Masarik is one three talented returning senior starters. The other two are Logan Hamilton and Will Burns.
Another receiver to look out for is junior Vince Wetmore, a transfer from Edison, Tolver said.
Tight end: The Lightning will use the tight end more often, with senior Luca Bonvicini and junior Logan Cook seeing time.
Offensive line: Tolver said this is the strength of the offense, despite losing three-year starter Lucas Ellison to a knee injury suffered during a lacrosse camp in the summer.
“Not only [is the line] bigger,” said Tolver, referring to the average weight of 230 pounds per lineman, “but experience-wise, we have a two- and three-year starter back. That’s going to bode well for us.”
Jack Bick, a senior left tackle, is a three-year starter, and Daschel Grammer, a senior left guard, a two-year starter.
The rest of the line includes junior center Winston Sun and senior right tackle Tom Ficcadenti.
Senior Chris Lee and junior Aaron Kim are battling for the starting job at right guard.
Defensive line: The Lightning will again use a 3-3-5 defense, the 30 stack, which uses three down linemen. Bonvicini and Grammer are the ends and Lee the noseguard.
Shane Russell and Ricky Sharpe, the co-defensive coordinators, stuck with the defense after Gregory Taylor introduced it to the program last year.
Linebackers: The three linebackers are Burns, a returning starter in the middle, with sophomore Jake Fisher and Corona outside.
Secondary: Roth and Wetmore are playing the hybrid safety-linebacker positions and Masarik is the returning free safety.
McCord and Hamilton are the cornerbacks. McCord will split time with Rafe Feffer, a junior playing varsity for the first time.
“We want to try to use [McCord] sparingly as much as we can,” Tolver said because he wants to keep McCord, his quarterback, healthy.
Special teams: Burns is handling the kicking and punting duties. He punted last year.
Tolver said during practice that Burns has been consistently converting field goals of less than 40 yards.
Roth is the punt returner and he will be returning kickoffs with Wetmore.
Hamilton is back as the long snapper.